HONOLULU (KHON2) — Would you hop into the Ala Wai Canal and go for a swim?

Organizers of the Genki Ala Wai Project hope folks can do just that when 2026 rolls around.

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They have partnered with local schools, businesses and nonprofits since 2019 to toss balls of soil packed with beneficial microbes into the Ala Wai.

The project has focused on sites near Jefferson and Ala Wai elementary schools. Ala Wai Elementary School students and staff shared the importance of their efforts with Japanese tourists for the first time on Tuesday, Nov. 15.

“These children are the ones that suffer from the pollution in the water,” said Kumu Pua Kamahoahoa, Ala Wai Elementary Hawaiian studies teacher. “You know, they’re standing right here in their classrooms and they can smell it, like, it’s overbearing.”

“So, when the world is now taking care of them, instead of us as Hawaii hosting the world, you know, we love it.”

Kumu Pua Kamahoahoa, Ala Wai Elementary Hawaiian studies teacher

The sludge depth at the Ala Wai Elementary test site has dropped from 10 to 5 inches since July, 2019. There was an even bigger drop at the Jefferson Elementary test site during the same time — 23 inches to just 3 inches.

Students told KHON2 that it was great to share what they learned as locals with those who visit the Islands.

“Ignorance comes with a lack of understanding. So, it’s about time that these students give them some understanding.”

Kumu Pua Kamahoahoa, Ala Wai Elementary Hawaiian studies teacher

“It was pretty cool! Honestly, yeah,” said Sano, an Ala Wai Elementary School fifth grader. “Because, you know, since the waters are very dirty here, we need to learn to, like, aloha our waters.”

“I feel like if we keep doing it, then I feel like the Ala Wai Canal will be fully clean and maybe swimmable,” said Emmett, an Ala Wai Elementary School fifth grader. Emmett admitted that he did not want to go for a swim in the Ala Wai just yet.

More events like these — and the return of tourism to Hawaii — could mean a clean Ala Wai is on the horizon. Click here to learn more about the Genki Ala Wai Project.

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“In the future of Hawaii, that’ll really help both sides,” Kamahoahoa said. “You know, the visitors that come here and the locals and Hawaiians like myself who live here because tourism is huge but they can come with the aloha spirit.”